Canadian drummer Owen Howard is a veteran session musician, performing with the crème de la crème of modern jazz heroes. He's also an impressive solo artist, witnessed on his fifth release, Drum Lore.
Howard delves into the musicality and compositional acumen of renowned jazz drummers, sans one original work. Ultimately, his formidable band projects a radiant outlook, spiced with more than enough pop, sizzle and cunning theme-building exercises as he pursues choice works by Billy Hart, Ed Blackwell and other drumming greats.
Howard's passion for the drums is clearly evident. In effect, he accentuates the musicality of these famous artists, yet does not mimic styles or provides literal translations of the core material. He drops a few bombs along the way, but serves as the primal force behind the music, and his arrangements encompass great depth and keen use of space.
The drummer peppers and prods the frontline via oscillating flows and snappy breakouts. His rendition of Jack DeJohnette's "Zoot Suite," features the familiar bass part amid the tightly packed and swirling horns choruses. Here, soprano saxophonist Andy Middleton's sinuous lines offer a supple framework during the bridge. Another highlight is Howard's take on Paul Motian's atmospheric but deterministic piece "It Should've Happened a Long Time Ago," where the soloists spawn the rather humble melody with ostinatos atop the leader's buoyantly sweeping maneuvers.
Howard's "Roundabout," alludes to a strong compositional pen, which is a work that is designed with circular phrasings and generates a synchronized balance between tenderness and firepower. He injects polyrhythmic flurries to instill a sense of rolling hills and curvy roads, to complement several melodic variations.
Drum Lore is a vibrant, and hugely entertaining endeavor. Howard's ideologies and modus operandi yield rewarding results. A superior technician, he beefs up the set with shrewdly placed dynamics and casts an aura that exudes the utmost admiration for these venerable drummers, past and present.